Scotland Economy and regeneration, Health and social care

East Lothian – joining the movement to secure the future of food and drink

Despite the challenges and adjustments faced by us all over the past year, the county of East Lothian – building upon its strong reputation in the food and drink sector – is the location of a flagship Food and Drink Innovation Hub and wider Edinburgh Innovation Park. Located at Queen Margaret University, the hub is the result of a long-standing collaboration between Queen Margaret University and East Lothian Council. The Food and Drink Innovation Hub is part-funded by £30 million from the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and a further £10 million from East Lothian Council.

Queen Margaret University’s reputation in the food and drink industry and innovation creates the perfect setting. Established as the Edinburgh School of Cookery in 1875, it emerged in a period that was notable for real economic progress, but characterised by many social and economic divisions and inequalities – sadly words that we are all still very familiar with 146 years later.

Whilst the School’s ethos focused on addressing the lack of opportunities for women and improving the diets of working-class families, its history narrates its expansion into high-quality strategic research, notably in health sciences, food and nutrition. Fast forward to the year 2021 and the Food and Drink Innovation Hub is another milestone underpinning not only Queen Margaret University’s history and ethos but the vision of East Lothian Council and the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal Programme – driving forward productivity and growth while reducing inequalities and deprivation. Set against the backdrop of the global Covid-19 pandemic this will translate into securing sustainable and long term economic recovery by providing quality jobs, creating skills pathways and attracting investment to the County of East Lothian.

The synergy in the visions of East Lothian Council, Queen Margaret University and the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal programme will undoubtedly be the bedrock for the success of the Food and Drink Innovation Hub and wider development of the Edinburgh Innovation Park. Queen Margaret University and East Lothian Council will jointly deliver the Food and Drink Innovation Hub (Spring 2025) – providing access to equipment, knowledge and skills to support product development and launches.​ There will be a programme of activities to foster innovation (for both SME’s and established enterprises), boost female entrepreneurship, and address market and societal needs. Goals that the founders of Queen Margaret University would undoubtedly recognise and support!

The Edinburgh Innovation Park will be developed over a 15-20 year period to create a nationally significant centre of knowledge exchange, innovation and high-value business growth.

The Food and Drink Innovation Hub and wider Edinburgh Innovation Park is in a prime strategic location. Thanks to being located next to the Queen Margaret University campus and situated on the boundaries of Edinburgh and Midlothian, it also benefits from the adjacent East Coast Train line. By the end of 2022, East Lothian Council will deliver a grade separated junction to further enhancing connectivity and accessibility.

It is an exciting, innovative project which already showcases the success of a collaboration between a local authority and an academic institution – surely we can all raise a glass to that!

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